As the Philadelphia Soul came back home to the Wells Fargo Center to kick off a three-game homestand, they had their eyes set on the Columbus Destroyers and also on the win column, as the Soul attempt to reverse their misfortune the past three weeks. The winless Destroyers were visiting Philadelphia and Philadelphia had to dig deep after losing Aaron Wascha and Lonnie Outlaw due to injury against the Baltimore Brigade. In this battle in front of 8,672 fans, the Soul was able to get back to a .500 win percentage and defeat Columbus, 47-35. The Soul defense came back to life this week, winning the turnover battle. Dan Raudabaugh continued to spread the ball around to his receivers, showing off the kind of depth Philadelphia has on offense.
Philadelphia Soul head coach, Clint Dolezel, highlighted the offensive line and defensive line for his team, “we had some pressure, a lot of pressure with the pass rush up front, and we covered well in the secondary.” The defensive secondary happened to be key contributors to the Soul’s win against the Columbus Destroyers. James Romain and Torez Jones had an interception of their own, one returned for a touchdown by Romain. Jones also forced a fumble, which was recovered by Darius Reynolds. Dolezel also praised the defensive adjustments, “we had a couple of series when they would run a new formation at us. We changed some things up and started stopping it.”
Week 6 Recap vs Columbus Destroyers:
The overview of this game shows that the Philadelphia Soul were able to execute on the majority of aspects it takes to win a football game. The Soul committed fewer penalties than the Columbus Destroyers, proving they were the more disciplined of the two teams. Philadelphia did not turn the ball over and Columbus did a few times that mostly lead to scoring drives for the Soul. Those couple of points really set the scene in the finer strokes of how a football game is dominated with the time of possession, field position, and efficiency.
To kick off this game, James Romain took an interception back for a touchdown as the Columbus Destroyers were driving into Philadelphia Soul territory. Soul defensive back, Torez Jones, commented on the spark that Romain had on the Soul in this game, “we take things personally and we feel like we are the heart and soul. We were making the plays that we should be making. It sparks the rest of our team, if they can’t score then they can’t win.”
The Columbus Destroyers would answer back and take a brief lead of 7-6 when Nick Seither rushed for a touchdown. Before the end of the first quarter, Dan Raudabaugh would locate Lonnie Outlaw for a touchdown as the Soul would regain the lead, 13-7.
In the second quarter, Torez Jones would make himself familiar with the Columbus Destroyers for the first time of the game, making a spectacular one-handed interception in the endzone, effectively securing the possession for the Philadelphia Soul. “We did a pretty good job of communicating, they threw some different things at us that we weren’t expecting, but I think we did a pretty good job of adjusting. We had three turnovers and we feel that we should have had five.”
After Torez Jones’ interception, Dan Raudabaugh would finish the next drive with a touchdown pass to Darius Prince, followed by another missed extra point from Kenny Spencer in the first half. He was one for three on extra point attempts in the first half and failed to convert his only field goal attempt in the game. Columbus Destroyers quarterback, Grant Russell, threw a touchdown pass to Tony Stevens to make the score, 19-14, going into the half. Clint Dolezel did comment on Spencer’s struggles briefly, “Kenny’s got to get out of his own head, that’s kind of how it goes. It’s no different from any position, quarterbacks too. He’ll be strong, he’s a veteran.” Spencer did bounce back in the second half, converting every extra point attempt.
Beginning the second half, Philadelphia Soul wide receiver, BJ Bunn, would collect his first two receiving touchdowns in the Arena Football League. The Soul would extend their lead to 33-14 by the end of the third quarter. Bunn knew he had a big role to fill coming into this game against Columbus after the injury to Aaron Wascha. Continuing to work on repetitions at practice and “being in the right spot and the right time” is what worked for Bunn. “The way it goes is next man up, I just took on that role,” said Bunn.
Another big play made by the Philadelphia Soul in the third quarter that began the offensive drive for BJ Bunn’s second touchdown on the night was the forced fumble by Torez Jones and recovery by Darius “Money” Reynolds. “It actually wasn’t my guy. Once he caught it, I just tried to take his head off,” said Jones about forcing the fumble. Reynolds stated he was just “trying to make a play” before crediting his teammate with the fumble.
In the final quarter of play, the Columbus Destroyers would outscore the Philadelphia Soul, but it would not be enough to come back in the game. Grant Russell threw a touchdown pass to Paul Browning and Tony Stevens while also recording a rushing touchdown of his own. The Soul did a remarkable job of limiting any real production from Fabian Guerra. Dan Raudabaugh would throw touchdowns to Darius Prince and Keith Newell. Kenny Spencer seems to be making progress to righting his own kick in the second half. The final score, 47-35, was one the Soul appreciated in front of their home fans. Raudabaugh was asked about Newell’s touchdown in the post-game press conference, “it’s his second one, he’s a weapon now! I read the stat sheet and they credited him with a forty-four-yard touchdown, so we’re gonna’ go with that. Credit to Coach Dolezel for calling a good play. Literally, right before the play, coach goes ‘Keith, is he rushing you?’ Keith walks out of the huddle, immediately bringing all the focus to him. Great execution.”
After the game, I asked Dan Raudabaugh about the play of the Philadelphia Soul offensive line, who has still yet to allow a sack all season, “they do a wonderful job. They were left with a bad taste in their mouth last week. There weren’t any sacks, but if you ask them, there were too many pressures and quarterback hits. The offensive line really took pride in getting back to being a brick wall and I don’t think one of their guys sniffed me all night long.” Six games into the season and it is hard to argue against the brick wall analogy that Raudabaugh uses to describe his offensive line.
Clint Dolezel confirmed after the game that Darius Reynolds will be playing wide receiver and linebacker the rest of the season. Reynolds admitted he is “getting a lot more comfortable, still not satisfied yet” with his play at linebacker. He works with James Romain to improve on defense. Another takeaway is that Reynolds has not played defense since “2003 or 2004.” “I played quarterback in high school, so they didn’t let me play defense,” said Reynolds.
The defensive player of this game was a hard decision to make on my ballot. I chose the defensive player of the game to be James Romain because his interception was returned for a touchdown and it sparked the tempo for the Philadelphia Soul’s win and defensive performance. The offensive player of the game was Dan Raudabaugh, who had six touchdown passes for two hundred and two hundred and twenty-two yards. The most valuable player this game, however, was Torez Jones, who was able to keep the defensive momentum going with an interception of his own that took away points from the Columbus Destroyers in the red zone and cut another drive short for the Destroyers with a forced fumble. This was a must win for the Soul and not only did they win, but players who needed to step up into their new role did a great job.
On June 9th, this Sunday at 4 pm, the Philadelphia Soul (3-3) will host the defending AFL champions, the Washington Valor (3-3). The entire league is deadlocked at a 3-3 record with the exception of the undefeated Albany Empire and the winless Columbus Destroyers. The last time the Soul faced the Valor this season, the Valor were victorious in a game that the Soul was dangerously close to stealing a win. As always, the best way to watch this game will be on ESPN 3 or on NBCSP+.